In Big Mac Land, Mac-Mac Tabotabo stands Big

Thanks to Jay Montecillo, who’s based in Modesto, California, I got to speak to one of the most promising young athletes in Cebu. His sport is the game of Roger Federer and, at only a dozen years old, he’s won dozens of local, national and, yes, US-based tournaments.

Vince Marc Tabotabo. You’ve read his name on these back pages before. Nicknamed “Mac-Mac,” he’s been in America for the past two months.

Kumusta?” I asked when we spoke last week.

“OK ra,” the shy 12-year-old tennis phenom hushed.

Together with his father/coach Titus Tabotabo, Mac-Mac has got Californians interested. For here’s a small youngster with the complexion unlike most of his white, towering tall junior American players. Here’s an example: Just last Sept. 7 in Auburn, California, Mac-Mac not only won the Boys 12-and-under singles title, but, just as well, the Doubles crown. In the quarterfinals, he beat Bobby Fretz, 6-3, 6-0; in the semis, the third-seeded Tabotabo faced the No.1 seed, Jacob Zetlin. The top-seed won the first set (6-3) before the Tuburan, Cebu native avenged to win the next two sets, 6-4, 6-2. In the finals, it was a breeze: a 6-1, 6-4 win over Scott Putty. Not contented, he teamed up with Fil-Am Winston Limhengco to win the finals, 8-2.

And that’s just one tournament. Here are five more: Freemont Junior Open (from July 21 to 25), the Foothills, Auburn event (August 2 to 3); the Natomas Racquet Club Junior Open in the city where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds office (Sacramento) from August 15 to 17; the Modesto Summer Junior Open from Aug. 22 to 24 where Mac-Mac reached the finals (his only loss so far!); and, finally, the 2008 Stockton Labor Day Junior Open (Stockton, CA) from August 30 to Sept. 1.

Jay Montecillo, whose father Woodrow swings backhands at the Sancase Tennis Club in Mabolo, e-mailed me two weeks ago to report the fabulous news about Mac-Mac Tabotabo. Days after we exchanged notes, Jay called from California. Next thing I knew, Jay put me on hold while he called Titus Tabotabo and we engaged in minutes of a three-way conference call: Jay, Titus and myself.

Titus revealed his plans to have Mac-Mac join more events in California. He also credits the help of Cebu Vice-Governor Greg Sanchez, Nike sporting goods, and an anonymous donor in the US with his America trip.

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